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Page last updated at 12:19 GMT, Thursday, 21 May 2009 13:19 UK

New York terror sting detailed

Four men have been arrested shortly after allegedly planting mock explosive devices and bombs outside a Jewish temple and community centre in New York, US authorities say. They are also accused of planning to shoot down US military planes using surface-to-air missiles in a simultaneous attack.

The arrests followed an investigation carried out with the help of an informer and detailed in an affidavit from an FBI special agent, which was obtained by the New York Times:

James Cromitie (right) being led by a police officer in New York, 21 May 2009
James Cromitie (right) appears to have been at the centre of the investigation

The first meeting recorded between the informer and the suspect who is mentioned most often in the FBI account, James Cromitie, took place in June 2008 in a mosque in Newburgh, New York state.

The suspect said his parents were of Afghan origin and he was upset about the war there, according to the affidavit. He said that if he were to die a martyr, he would go to paradise, and spoke of wanting to do "something to America".

Some subsequent meetings involving the suspects and the informer were held in a Newburgh house that the FBI had bugged.

In November the informer and James Cromitie discussed possible targets in New York as they travelled to a meeting of a Muslim group in Philadelphia, the affidavit says. The suspect said that "the best target [the World Trade Centre] was hit already".

Shortly afterwards, at the Newburgh house, he asked the informer to supply him with surface-to-air missiles and explosive devices.

Weapons pick-up

It was in early April that the suspects began to accelerate the preparations for an attack, according to the FBI account.

After buying a digital camera from Walmart with another suspect, James Cromitie photographed several synagogues and a Jewish community centre in New York's Bronx neighbourhood, explaining that bombing the centre would be a "piece of cake", the affidavit says.

He also pointed to people walking near the community centre and claimed that if he had a gun, he would shoot each one in the head.

Riverdale Jewish Centre, New York, 20 May 2009
The suspects are accused of targeting a Jewish centre in the Bronx

On 24 April two suspects and the informer drove to the Air National Guard Base at Stewart Airport north of New York, searching for a spot from which they could fire missiles at military planes.

A 9-millimetre semi-automatic handgun and four mobile phones were bought in the days that followed, after an initial effort to buy guns failed.

On 6 May, the informer handed over a dummy missile and three fake explosive devices holding more than 30 pounds of inert plastic explosives, which he pretended had been obtained from Jaish-e-Mohammed.

They were in fact supplied by the FBI.

All four suspects set off to collect the weapons from a warehouse in Stamford, Conneticut, but one became worried that they were being trailed by the police.

That suspect was dropped off before the three others drove around Newburgh, New York, trying to check if they were still being followed, before proceeding to the warehouse.

There they inspected the dud weapons, discussing how to operate them and testing a detonation device with a mobile phone.

Back in Newburgh the weapons were locked in a storage container and the three suspects are described as celebrating their achievement by shouting the Arabic phrase "Allahu akbar", or "God is greatest".

The FBI's sting was completed only after the suspects had planted the mock devices in cars late on Wednesday outside the Jewish temple and centre, the New York Times reported.

The suspects wanted to pick up detonators from Newburgh launching the air base attack, the paper said.

But two police vehicles blocked their way, and officers smashed the windows of their black sports utility vehicle before charging and handcuffing them.

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